During the winter break, I delved more into the text for the critical issues course. After completing the book, there were some questions I had:
- To what extent do administrators handle critical issues daily? The case studies in the book seemed very extreme and how could one person not tackle the issue with common sense?
The case studies brought up a number of topics that were and were not familiar to me. I have thought about how I would react to the situations and reviewed questions posed at the end of each case study. I pondered the issue at hand, and everything went back to this: What is the process that will provide a safe learning environment for students?
One case study that made me really reflect was 3.5: Teacher With A Handgun-The Right To Bear Arms, Protecting Students And School Policy. I can sympathize (not empathize) with Jenna’s fear, abusive past and concern with lack of proper safety features in the town and school. I was appalled that the administrator appeared to attempt to cover up the situation, as well as surprised how vague the policies about firearms on school grounds were and Jenna’s belief it was her duty to protect her students with a firearm so much she would have it in school if a situation was that dire.
Days after reading this case study, I still think about it. There are various factors that must be addressed:
- Policy of firearms on and off school property. This needs to be reviewed and/or revised and information disseminated to the appropriate stakeholders
- Poor infrastructure of the buildings: Can anything be done to make the buildings more secure in case of an emergency?
- Moral compass of the administrator (lack-there-of)
Reflecting back on 2016 with reading, I am pleased of the progress that was made this year. I looked back to Goodreads at the 2016 goal of 60 books, finishing with 114 books. Many books this year included series and stand-alone books for middle-grade fiction.
At the beginning of the summer, I found myself in a reading slump. I was tired of reading elementary and middle-school aged books. I discovered an Elizabethan mystery series, YA and adult fiction books the second half of the year.
Looking at goals at the beginning of 2016, I did not accomplish many:
- Finish Anne of Green Gables Series: I finished books 4-6, but attempted books 7/8. I do not care for these as much as they do not heavily feature Anne, but her children.
- Finish A Series of Unfortunate Events series. I listened to these books on audiobook from March to September on my drives to and from work.
- Read The Peculiar Series again by Ransom Riggs. None.
- Read a classic book a month (will start with The BFG and finish Anne of Windy Poplars). Started strong, but finished weak.
- Blog about my reading progress each month. Did not do this
Highlights of the year included:
- Audiobooks to listen to and from my commutes to work
- Graphic novels. For the longest time, I thought I hated graphic novels, but I have come to enjoy a well-written book and appreciate the genre more this year
- Leigh Bardugo’s books. Need I say more?
Top 10 Books of 2016 Read
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Ghosts by Raina Telgemeir
- These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
- Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire
- Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
- Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
- Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
- Heartless by Marissa Meyer
- Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
- Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
(Top three included These Shallow Graves, Every Heart A Doorway and Six of Crows)
My goals for 2017 include:
- Read 70 books
- Re-read Harry Potter series
- Finish 2 series currently reading
- Read all of Roald Dahl’s books
- Read and finish 2 new series
Last week, I had my formal observation. The process is a bit less stressful this year, as there is only one formal observation to prepare for. It’s beneficial it’s completed in the first few months of school so I can implement feedback sooner in the school year.
During the conference with my administrator, I shared my learning style: I like to follow rules and know exactly what is expected of me for a situation. When this information was shared, I believe the feedback was more relevant and meaningful because it was tailored to meet my needs at the time. After some good conversation, the feedback was received. The post-conference occurred this morning and I have many ideas swimming in my head right now. I will reflect on her feedback for a few days and move forward from there.
Additionally, I met with my communication teammate this week. We reflected on the past few months, and besides easy-to-fix mistakes, we are pleased with the communication committee and plan to move forward. We discussed some simple changes. Also, with feedback from presentations at class in November, we discussed how to encourage teachers to have more ownership and participation in the communication process. We came up with some ideas:
- Encouraging teachers to create videos and send to us for distribution to the appropriate networks (teachers already submit photos to the building shared photo on the server)
- Have a dedicated share-out time at curriculum meetings where each grade-level rep will highlight events, curriculum or projects
We plan to implement these items at our next meeting in mid-December. I am currently on working pulling first quarter data from 2016-17 for the Facebook page. My goal is to have that done by December.
In class last week, we talked a lot about the difference between feedback versus criticism. We constantly provide feedback to students, but do we provide meaningful feedback to colleagues or negative criticism? After some reflection, I began to understand more of the differences between feedback and criticism:
- Culture of trust and safety
- Two-way conversations
- Celebrates what went well, but has an open conversation about what are areas that could be improved. Specific and clear goals, expectations to show growth and improvement
- Non-confrontational and open communication between people conversing
- Negative conversations: only focuses on what went wrong and fault is with the person being evaluated
- No plan to move forward or grow as a professional
- Power struggles
- One-way conversation
- Close-ended questions and answers; no specific advice
No matter who I converse with, I need to provide a culture of meaningful feedback, whether it’s peers or students. To begin this, I feel I already have created a culture of trust and safety in the library. Without that in place, no meaningful conversations can even begin to take place. I do have to continue to promote this trusting culture-it’s not something that you never stop working at. I hope colleagues know that I keep information confidential and can actively listen.
However, as I become a teacher-leader there are some items I need to work on to provide effective feedback in the future. One huge takeaway for me from this last class was being specific and as clear as possible for growth plans. It is helpful to have a big picture in mind, but the little details along the journey are needed, as well. I need to set more specific goals and clear deadlines. We provide clear expectations and goals to students, so why would adult learners be any different?
Also, in the last class, we received some information about what type of feedback learning style most correlates with us as individuals. After reading through the packet, I determined I am instrumental learner (rule-follower) for feedback. To feel successful, I need to know what is expected of me and have clear examples of expectations.
My formal observation is coming up soon, and I want to share with my principal in the pre-conference this information about my learning style, so my post-conference will be more successful. Also, we will have the opportunity to peer-poach a colleague. I want to share these learning styles for feedback so I know what type of learner he or she is. This information will help me provide more effective feedback. I’m excited to share this information to see if there are more effective takeaways and plans for growth.
Last week while meeting with our district classmates, we each had to present our presentation in front of the group. This was for practice the official presentations Wednesday, November 9. During each presentation, we would receive feedback about the overall presentation. I received my feedback, but put the papers aside for a few days in order to reflect personally.
It is comfortable for me to go in front of students to talk and to teach. The kids are easy-going and eager to learn. Presenting in front of colleagues proved to be a bit different for me. You don’t know what thoughts are in their minds or what their opinions are. My quiet side came out again, and that made me frustrated with myself. I’m outgoing and goofy with my students, but that side didn’t come out with these presentations. I guess with new groups of people I do not know well, I am a bit reserved. I like to observe my surroundings before I feel comfortable to come out of my shell. Each meeting is becoming easier to initiate conversation with people as I get to know them more.
Anyways, I reviewed my feedback yesterday, and it was helpful (I had no idea I talk faster when I am nervous). I will adjust some processes for the official presentation on 11/9 and update some of the visuals.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed an administrator, the director of technology in FCSD, about her views on communication. Throughout the interview, there were some key points that she pointed out that have stuck with me the past few weeks:
- Think about the medium. Make sure it’s the right format for the message: electronic, paper, phone, etc.
- Understand who the audience is, and tailor the message to meet characteristics of that audience
- Make sure the message has a purpose. If it doesn’t, then you need to rework a message so it has meaning
- Put yourself in the position of the person that needs information. Let that be your guide and keep info simple
- Make sure to not communicate too much information in one message. Break up information and keep it clear. This will have more impact
Since this interview, I have reflected about how I communicate and whether it is effective or not. I have changed some practices:
- In emails, using more bullet points and headers for sections
- Emailing one main idea per message
- Putting myself in the stakeholder’s position and writing down on a notebook what type of information might be needed. This writing process has helped me tailor a message to communicate more effectively with people at school. I have gotten fewer questions this year about events or resources because I have taken the time to anticipate what information a stakeholder might need
- Communicating more effectively with our ELL students. Last year, the ELL teacher spoke Spanish to help me communicate with families. This year, our new ELL teacher does not speak Spanish, so I have had to find different ways to effectively communicate with families where English is not the first language. I’ve also had the students try to teach me some phrases in their first language so I can more easily talk with them. This has been a great learning experience for me, as I am getting to know our students more
The communication task force has created its first video that showcased information about the first-grade blood drive. It was quite a learning experience as I delved more into the ins and outs of video-editing and creation. It’s becoming easier the more I play around with the software-we use Camtasia.
However, there was one big mistake we made with the making of this first video. We connected with the team and they sent kids down to create the video and rehearse. But the kids did not have any lines memorized or even had an idea of what they had to say. We ASSUMED that the grade level would have helped students create the script and have students practice lines for the PBL video project. We quickly wrote a script and had students practice it for the final take the next day.
In the end, there was a decent video that was created. However, the team reflected and we decided we needed to tell teachers that we need their help for the videos. At our next faculty meeting, we went over the expectations that students need to come prepared to shoot a video with us and know what they are expected to accomplish. This now-clear communication about our role and expectations has provided positive results. We have made a few more videos since then, and teachers have sent students prepared to rehearse and shoot the video. I hope this keeps up.
This year, I will start a two-year program that will eventually lead to a CAS in Educational Leadership. The first class was last week, and I loved it. It was wonderful to be back in an official classroom and be a learner.
One requirement for the class is to keep a record of professional readings from September to May. There has to be a minimum of 10; my first book to read is “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros. Mr. Couros was the keynote speaker at a conference earlier this summer and I wanted to begin the assignment with this book.
In the introduction, Mr. Couros mentions how innovative educators develop innovative students. Teachers need to showcase creativity and innovation inside school, so students constantly wonder, think and crave more knowledge. We need to provide students these opportunities. As Mr. Couros states, “If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them,” (Couros, pg. 6).
Another point that stuck with me was this: we need to embrace change as it meets our community. What works in one school may not work in another. We need to build relationships with our community to implement and sustain change. The world is constantly changing, and we must adapt to meet the needs of our current student and community population. Educators must lead as learners and preserver through challenging and difficult situations.
Lastly, one of educator’s main goals should be to provide experiences that make students better people beyond graduation. It’s not all about the score of a state test. Once again, it goes back to the relationships we build.
At the end of each chapter is a section of discussion questions I hope to blog about. I am excited for this journey ahead of me.
In the article, “Beyond The Bubble,” by Katie Day, I realized the importance to an active role to enhance global literacy and news literacy skills with my students. Sure, I provide resources to teachers in my building to develop these skills with students. But, our roles as librarians are so unique – we can dabble in many disciplines and content areas.
Also, I am unsure if my students are truly aware of the world around them. Many have never been outside Fulton, and think downtown Syracuse is a huge city. Through global literacy and news literacy, the students will hopefully be more aware and in-tune with different places, people and ideas.
After reading through some of the articles and resources, there are some ideas I want to incorporate into my practice this coming year:
- Use Newsela with my upper grades to discuss current events and the global world. I want students to blog about their reactions and thoughts to the articles that we discuss. Usually, students have used blogs for book reviews or creative writing, but I want to use the students’ blogs for another purpose. I do appreciate how Newsela has the option of different lexiles for students
- Com is another site I liked. This looks like an online newspaper for kids; topics are nicely organized and high-interest. At the end of the article, there are writing and reading prompts to promote discussion and communication amongst students and myself
- Powerful Voices for Kids: This will be a good resource to introduce news literacy to primary grades with its lesson plans
- YoungZine: Another site to explore with my students next year
- Student Vote 2016: My students already have opinions about the upcoming November election. I want to engage their interest even more with this website
Image from amazon.com
WHEN I Discovered This Classic: I discovered this classic a few years ago when I received the box set of Anne books from my sister. At that time, I only read the first three books in the series.
WHY I Chose to Read It: As I packed up my books to move into a new house, my eyes fell on the Anne series again. I remembered how much I loved the first few books in the series, and I wanted to continue to read through Anne’s journey as hers was similar to mine at this point in my life: developing my career, getting married, and buying my first “house of dreams.”
WHAT Makes It A Classic: The main character, Anne, is a classic character. In the literary world, who has not heard of the red-haired, charismatic, mischievous orphan from Green Gables? The descriptions of nature and the landscape of Prince Edward Island have always made me want to visit this place.
WILL It Stay A Classic: This book will stay a classic. I wanted to be Anne when I was a little girl, going on adventures and discovering kindred spirits. I still want to be her as an adult. The Anne series showcases friendship, loss, adventure – many experiences that all people go through, no matter what age or time period.
WHO I’d Recommend It To: I would recommend this book to anyone entering the world of adulthood: career, house, relationship. I connected with Anne’s experiences and it has made my journey into the next chapter of my life full of adventure and laughter, just like her adventure has been.
***Plan to complete News Literacy lesson once it is available***
What Did You Learn?
- How did you put what you learned into action at school? Personally? Finished signage for the collection and modified the physical space of the library. All the sections but makerspace and everybody books are done. My library aide helped to create colorful and strategically-placed signage for students on the bookshelves. We moved around the physical space of books (having an easy chapter book section) and moved high-interest genres to a more prominent location. This has helped students become more aware of different books available. We also moved around the physical space of the library. We now have a designated reading/social area, makerspace area, computer area, quiet area, etc. I do want to purchase more rugs this summer to make the library more welcoming for the fall. Also, it is up to me to become an enthusiastic advocate for the library program. No one else can start but me. I have projects in place for the summer to complete that I want to implement in the fall.
- Did you expand your Personal Learning Network? Make new professional connections? I should have done a better job connecting with other people. I would read their blogs, but did not comment on any.
- What challenges did you face during the workshop? I am still not a fan of coding personally, but if my students are interested in it, I will happily and enthusiastically learn about it and provide it as a program for them.
I have started some projects this year that I want to follow up on in the future. They include:
- Create an infographic as my annual report in June: add more than statistics though
- Develop the library Goodreads account over the summer to make it ready September and incorporate it into my lesson plans
- Connecting with stakeholders: create a brochure to connect with students and parents for September, add comments to report cards that show specifically units and standards covered for each grade level, contribute more events and programs, as well as tips (digital citizenship, information-literacy, reading websites, apps) in the monthly school newsletter, create a monthly Smore newsletters for teachers
- Connect with my public library. For the second year, the children’s librarian will come to speak to all classes about the summer reading program in June. Also, I want to invite a rep to come to open house in September so families can sign up for public library cards
- Re-shoot the technology sign-out video for the website
- Maintain a daily journal of what I do each day
- Use Pixlr for more photos on the website and school Facebook page
- Have two weeks dedicated to the Hour of Code in December for students instead of one. This summer, I will complete a PD course on coding so I can become more knowledgeable in this area
- All of the information I gathered I plan to share during the librarians’ PD days over the summer
Did You Like Learning This Way?
Participating in this program has proved to be another enjoyable experience. I appreciate that I could work at my own pace to complete the lessons each week. Online learning has never been a problem for me: I am able to manage my time accordingly.
The most valuable item of this program was new lessons, especially connecting with stakeholders. That track provided some excellent tips for me to implement. I also valued that I could revisit a lesson previously tried a year or two ago.
I need to do a better job connecting with other participants of the program. I read some blogs, but should have done a better job to comment and connect with other educators.
Thank you, Polly, for creating another wonderful experience for us. I plan to complete this program again if it is offered.